The Old Man and the graduate
Marape once again outwits opponents

The persistent stigma of white racism

Feelings towards specific groups in Australia
Community feelings towards specific racial groups in Australia

PHILIP FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY – Let me start with a statement.

The most prevalent form of racism is based on colour and is manifested almost entirely by whites against people of colour.

And now a definition.

Racism is the belief that humans can be divided into separate and exclusive biological entities (races) and that there is a causal link between biological traits (such as colour) and intellect, personality, morality and other cultural and behavioural features.

This misguided belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities or qualities is then used to categorise them as either inferior or superior to one another.

And skin colour has become the main point of otherness. There is no getting away from this reality.

Although white against white does occur, as in the case of discrimination by the English against the Irish and, to a certain extent, the French.

While white people are the main perpetuators of racism, it can occasionally work the other way through what is sometimes termed ‘reverse racism’.

In my observation, however, that expression is more a reaction against white racism.

The concept of racism is based entirely on false concepts.

There is no biological proof that so-called races are different in personality, intellect or morality.

Of course, there are cultural and behavioural differences – but they have nothing to do with biology.

Racism is primarily about prejudice based on race when it is combined with the power to subjugate.

And subjugation, of course, benefits one group of people to the detriment of another group.

Racism in perhaps its rawest form is to be found in slavery. Its more modern forms are human trafficking and the broader issue of economic inequality.

There are, however, many subtle and insidious forms of racism that go largely unnoticed. The post-colonial history of Papua New Guinea provides a case in point.

Unfortunately many critics of Papua New Guinea are wont to frame the development and governance issues faced by PNG in terms of racism.

The inference is that Papua New Guineans are biologically inferior and that this innate inferiority has caused their failure to be an image of Australia and other Western nations.

At an impersonal level, say by comparing sets of numbers, it is an argument that, while still fatally flawed, is perhaps easier to maintain.

At the interpersonal level, where interaction occurs directly between white Australians and non-white Papua New Guineans, it falls flat on its face because whatever differences exist tend to be superficial.

A belief in the inferiority of Papua New Guineans – whether racially or culturally - influenced Australian colonialism and, regrettably, continues in the relationship with PNG since independence.

In the USA, where racism is deeply entrenched, capitalism relies on the maintenance of a largely black underclass for cheap labour, and on the suppression of the underclass to protect white supremacy, but that is not the case in Australia where our underclass is largely white and our democracy demonstrably stronger.

White Australians, unlike white Americans, have no economic or political reason to be racist.

Of course, if you ask an Australian if they are racist they will deny it. But the facts belie that assertion.

Australia was founded on the fantastic imperialistic lie that genocide was a legitimate economic imperative but that murderous lie has long since been exploded.

And yet the racism persists. It bubbles just below the surface. And it appears too often even in government policies.

If you don’t believe that, try asking a Papua New Guinean, an Indigenous Australian, a recent migrant from Africa, a Moslem woman wearing a hajib or a refugee who came by boat.

Comments

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Garrett Roche

Keith, thank you for comment on my comment. I did not in any way want to make excuses for racism, but I should have made that clear. Originally I had an additional sentence saying that we start to combat racism by checking ourselves to see if we have any racist attitudes or behaviours and get rid of them. I should have left that sentence in my comment.

Harry Topham

Phil, agree to disagree. I do not think that the Chinese people would agree that racism is a white thing only as they suffered terribly under the Japanese invasion post 1930 where the invaders considered themselves superior to all others.

Besides Genghis Khan was an oriental and showed no mercy whatsoever to those who fell before his sword.

As human beings we still have to endure the primaeval part of our brain cortex remaining from our evolutionary past that seem to always want to predominate our thinking when we feel threatened by others.

Garrett Roche

Phil raises important issues. He correctly states "There is no biological proof that so-called races are different in personality, intellect or morality. " I think this is a basic principle.

One problem I found with myself is that, while I do not want in any way to be racist or to act in a racist way, I may in fact have some attitudes or underlying beliefs that may be founded on racial presumptions.

On a related matter, for an interesting article on 'Racism and nationalism during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.' see:
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/01419870.2020.1851382
__________

We are not immediately responsible for the underlying racist or bigoted attitudes we are socialised to, but we are irresponsible if we do not (upon attaining maturity) question them and (upon this interrogation yielding moral understanding) do something about them - KJ

Bernard Corden

Dear Phil,

It's almost May Day and here is one from Billy Bragg:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAw0Ri4FSdM

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